Skip to main content

Book review: Suttree

This apparently semi-autobiographical novel was classic Cormac McCarthy. The writing was ballsy and wordy, but to my ear mostly beautiful. Especially in this day when the faintest breath of wordiness is scorned, McCarthy's expansive style is lovely to read (and even better to hear). It's hard to imagine anyone else pulling that off, though.

The story concerns Cornelius Suttree, a man of apparently wealthy background who, for reasons that remain mysterious, abandons his family and friends to live in a dilapidated houseboat on the Tennessee river and hang out with a bunch of colorful miscreants. The story, rather like a river itself, meanders all over the place with not much purpose aside from staying close to Suttree.

It's the funniest McCarthy book I've read:
Come in here, Worm, called J-Bone. Get ye a drink of this good whiskey.

Hazelwood entered smiling and took the bottle. He tilted it and sniffed and gave it back.

The last time I drank some of that shit I like to died. I stunk from the inside out. I laid in a tub of hot water all day and climbed out and dried and you could still smell it. I had to burn my clothes. I had the dry heaves, the drizzlin shits, the cold shakes and the jakeleg. I can think about it now and feel bad.

Hell Worm, this is good whusk.

I pass.

Worm’s put down my whiskey, Bud.

I think you better put it down before it puts you down. You’ll find your liver in your sock some morning.
It's violent, but not as brutal as Blood Meridian--it's more poignant and touching.

Like many McCarthy books the mind of the main character is fairly obscure. Throughout much of Suttree I was wondering, "Why in hell is he doing that?" For a character that has made such a profound decision as leaving his wife and kids, that lack of motivation was frustrating. I thought the no-thoughts technique worked better in Blood Meridian, where I got the impression that the protagonist was just bouncing around reacting to things.

Still, these are relatively minor complaints. Tragic and hilarious, this was a superb read, high McCarthy in fine form.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

The Basic Instinct of Socialism

This year I finally decided to stop beating around the bush and start calling myself a democratic socialist. I think the reason for the long hesitation is the very long record of horrifying atrocities carried out by self-described socialist countries. Of course, there is no social system that doesn't have a long, bloody rap sheet, capitalism very much included . But I've never described myself as a capitalist either, and the whole point of socialism is that it's supposed to be better than that. So of course I cannot be a tankie — Stalin and Mao were evil, terrible butchers, some of the worst people who ever lived. There are two basic lessons to be learned from the failures of Soviet and Chinese Communism, I think. One is that Marxism-Leninism is not a just or workable system. One cannot simply skip over capitalist development, and any socialist project must be democratic and preserve basic liberal freedoms. The second, perhaps more profound lesson, is that there is no s

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha